It’s the images I keep coming back to.
The kids, dressed for the school day in shirt sleeves and sneakers, hands on the child’s shoulders before them as they’re led from the building by police. Their mouths agape with confusion and fear, they stare into the middle distance like soldiers.
The cars crowding the building — on the shoulder, the road, on side streets, the grass — like a handful of sticks tossed into the air, landing every which way. As if the drivers had bolted from the still-moving vehicles. Pulled like a magnet to the school.
The pictures make sense in a way that words simply can’t: A 20-year-old gunman. A kindergarten classroom. Twenty-seven dead. Twenty children. The soul slumps to think of it. The heart sinks.
We watched it all unfold in real time Friday. Glued to TVs and computer screens, looking for explanations, for reasons, even though there can be none. No way to make sense of such an unthinkable act.
"Our hearts are broken today," a tearful President Obama said in a speech from the White House. What more can be said about such horror? But how can you talk about anything else?
How can you escape the sick, hollow feeling of witnessing a tragedy suffered by strangers? An attack not on your own children but on childhood, itself.
In the coming days and weeks, more details will emerge. The twisted road to Friday’s massacre will be uncovered, mapped and marked.
Sandy Hook Elementary will be added to a heartbreakingly long list: Chardon High School, West Nickel Mines, Red Lake, Columbine.
California Christian, Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech. So many others. Names that no longer mark geography, but tragedy.
Sandy Hook will be ranked and remembered as one of this country’s deadliest school shootings to date. Lumped in with all the horrific incidents that came before.
There will never be a way to calculate, to quantify or rank the horror of a bright winter day, just a stones-throw from Christmas, when two dozen innocent people were gunned down in a quiet Connecticut elementary school.
And as has happened so many times before, our shock will dull with time. The pain will be forgotten except by those whose lives were directly affected, irreversibly altered.
All history will remember are the numbers: Twenty-seven dead. Twenty children.